March 10 Readings

Music as intellectual property

The readings explore the concept of music as intellectual property and delve into the many issues that consequently arise in the practice of “musical borrowing or quoting, digital sampling and the Digital rights management control over “netizens”.

McLeod introduces the issue of musical sampling as a copyright infringement with the example of Danger mouse and his tribute to The Beatles and Jay-Z in his Grey Album. He further describes the album as sample reinterpretation.As fans were warned to “cease and desist” the author discusses cyber civil disobedience by providing a brief intro to musique concrete as a pioneer of later cutting edge music as Danger mouse.

“Under the current copyright system, owners insist that it's illegal to sample without permission, even if one offers to pay royalties. However, it's perfectly okay for musicians to record their own versions of a song by registering the cover and paying the appropriate licensing fee”.

Together with Burkart, McLeod also discusses cyber activism and advocates free exchange of ideas by presenting his own experience with Grey Album and EMI.

Grey Album

Katz explores the intricacies of digital sampling. By providing several musical examples ranging from Sinead O Connor to Lansky, he presents the argument of digital samples as an art form where, unlike musical quotations, a performance is what is being “borrowed” resulting in a metamorphosis of the sample as it is presented in a new theme.

“Yet isn't there something fundamentally different between such traditional acts of borrowing and digital sampling? It is sometimes said that while a quotation is simply a representation of another piece, a sampled passage of music is that music. But that depends on what the meaning of "is" is”.

In the above statement, Katz brings us back the quintessential debate on what constitutes music, the score, the sounds, recording, etc. By presenting musical examples of centuries of musical quotations such as L’homme arme mass or Dies Irae, he underlines the differences between a musical quotation and sampling. By breaking down Notjustmoreidlechatter by Lansky he challenges our perception on where interpretation lies in a composition. Lansky’s piece, he argues, makes the listener an active interpreter since Lansky has cut out the performer.



Burkart's book chapter focuses on the colonization of music in the digital age, such as the Digital Rights Management and the countless terms of agreements users have to navigate to access music online. This also has social ramifications as music becomes a commodity making its equal distribution impossible. He further discusses the loss of agency in cyberculture turning music lovers into consumers, therefore disrupting the social agency of marginalized groups.

"The impositions of the technocratic controls on music fans in exchange for access to culture cannot be a relationship that develops into "socially recognized norms of action" (Habermas 1987, 175) because they detach music acquisition and distribution from the legitimating lifeworld. In other words, the legalistic terms of the Celestial Jukebox are not legitimate from the standpoint of record collectors"

He presents four ways of dissent or activism that citizens can take part to defend their cyberliberties: alternative and radical media, cultural jamming, and hacktivism.

"Culture jamming has been mobilized in antiglobalization demonstrations, in campaigns against media consolidation, and against the Religious Right in the United States. Practically all culture jamming uses a dose of humor and some "social engineering" work to break into mainstream media discourses and conversations and hijack the message, if not the communication channel".


1.How do Burkart's approach to cyberliberties and the study of multiple aspects of music production relate to Small’s idea of musicking? Are they in agreement?
2.Do you agree with Burkhart's idea of the global citizen or Netizen as a refuge for decolonizing? Why?
3.What does Burkhart mean the Celestial Jukebox and what is its significance?(see below)
“Also, it provides a normative basis for critiquing the dominant system (the Celestial Jukebox), faulting it for producing systematically distorted forms of IP law, abusive markets, and desiccated consumer rights”
4.How does the idea of the listener as an interpreter affect our own perception of music as performers, composers or active participants?

Additional listening suggested from the readings:
Revolution 9
Berio Sinfonia Mov. 3

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